Riverside police Officer Brian Greenenwald usually works the midnight shift, but on Dec. 23 at 6:30 p.m. he was on duty when he was called to help investigate a crash on Harlem Avenue caused by a suspected impaired driver.
It turns out the driver, who showed signs of intoxication but whose breath test came back .000, was under influence of at least three drugs – heroin, prescription pills and cannabis — according to a report released later.
Greenenwald was summoned to the scene because he is a certified Drug Recognition Expert, trained specifically to identify signs that someone is under the influence of drugs. DREs, as they’re known, are not only trained to watch out for certain symptoms of impairment, but they also take vital signs and provide expert testimony in court cases involving drugged drivers.
Getting impaired drivers off the road has been something of a crusade for the 31-year-old Greenenwald, who was hired in Riverside in 2007 and made a personal request to Chief Thomas Weitzel in 2010 to be placed permanently on the midnight shift, where the bulk of DUI incidents happen.
“Every year that goes by, I get a little more tired, but I enjoy it,” said Greenenwald, who is married with a young son. “It makes sense for our family right now.”
Greenenwald says he gets about five hours of sleep when he’s scheduled to work, due in part to the amount of time he spends in court after his shift ends at about 7 a.m.
“I spend so much time in Maywood [where the Maybrook courthouse is located] that it cuts into my sleep schedule,” he said. “I enjoy the court aspect. I have a good working relationship with all of the assistant state’s attorneys and enjoy the case law aspect.”
When it comes to being able to get convictions in DUI cases, something Greenenwald does at an 88-percent clip, according to Weitzel, “You have to know your craft and the ins and outs of the law.”
A graduate of Lyons Township High School and a LaGrange Park native, Greenenwald is the son of longtime former Komarek School teacher Jan Greenenwald. He went to Illinois State University intending to be a music major but came out with a criminal justice degree. He’s since earned a master’s degree in criminal justice administration from Lewis University.
Greenenwald said his interest in DUI enforcement was sparked when Michael Gordon, a former Riverside cop and the son of former Riverside Deputy Chief Robert Gordon, was killed while on duty as a Chicago patrolman by a drunk driver. That incident happened in 2004, when Greenenwald was in college.
“It was an eye-opener,” Greenenwald said.
There is no other police officer in the history of the Riverside Police Department who has made as many DUI arrests – for both alcohol and drug impairment – than Greenenwald.
In November, Greenenwald logged his 500th DUI arrest, which places him in select company in Illinois. According to Weitzel, out of the roughly 41,000 police officers in the state, only 200 or so have made that many DUI arrests.
“Without question, in my opinion, he has saved lives,” Weitzel said last month when he presented Greenenwald with a certificate of appreciation from the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists (AAIM) for hitting the 500 arrest milestone.
“It’s hard to quantify that because he’s preventing something from happening, so there’s no stat I can go to to tell you. But his pulling over impaired drivers has literally saved residents’ lives and residents of Cook County and the state of Illinois.”
While Greenenwald has held his DRE certification since January 2014, in the past six months Riverside Police Chief Thomas Weitzel has made Greenenwald available as a resource to neighboring departments, to help solidify cases against suspected drugged drivers.
In that time he’s been called out to assist officers in conducting drugged-driver evaluations in North Riverside, Brookfield, Broadview and Berwyn.
“Brian is a wonderful resource for our department,” said Brookfield Deputy Police Chief Edward Petrak. “Not only has he assisted us with complicated drug-related traffic arrests, he’s also spent time training our patrol officers.”
Riverside hosted a DUI seminar for area police agencies a couple of years ago, Petrak said, and Greenenwald was the instructor. With incidents of drugged-driving on the rise, having a DRE nearby is increasingly handy.
“It’s a great comfort knowing he’s available to help us with these very complex incidents,” Petrak said. “He’s a true expert in this field and we’re lucky to have him right next door.”
There are just a handful of certified DREs in the Chicago area and less than 100 actively doing DRE evaluations in the entire state. Some officers who have completed the rigorous training required for certification have not maintained the certification. DREs must recertify every two years, which involves eight hours of drug training and evaluation by an instructor.
The next step for Greenenwald is to become a DRE instructor himself, but the training is held just once a year and in 2017 is in far downstate Collinsville, so that’s unlikely this year.